Sport in Samoa

The main sports played in Samoa are rugby union and rugby league. Other popular sports are netball and soccer. Samoans in American Samoa are more likely to follow or play American sports such as American football, basketball, and baseball. Sports such as mixed martial arts, boxing, professional wrestling, and volleyball are popular among most ethnic Samoans regardless of location.

Types of sports[]

Rugby union[]

Rugby union is the main sport in Samoa as it is played everywhere on the island. Samoa's national team has competed in every Rugby World Cup since 1991 and they consistently rank in the top 20 teams in world rugby. Some of the current national team record holders are Brian Lima for most caps and most tries, Tusi Pisi for most points, Semo Sititi for most matches as captain, and Gavin Williams for most points in a match. Elvis Seveali'i and Alesana Tuilagi are tied for most tries in a single match.

Rugby league[]

Rugby league is a popular sport in Samoa, with the national team reaching the quarter finals of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. They have also qualified for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup which was held in Australia during October and November. Samoa is known for producing NRL players at one of the highest rates in the world. Many Samoan New Zealanders and Samoan Australians also play in the Super League and National Leagues in Britain.

American football[]

American football is a popular sport in Samoa but it still trails rugby union and rugby league in terms of participation. Per capita, the Samoan Islands have produced the highest number of NFL players. It's estimated that a boy born to Samoan parents is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other boy in America.[1]

Samoans have been at the forefront as a wave of Polynesian players and coaches have found success in the sport. In 1945, Al Lolotai became the first Polynesian to play in the NFL. In 2014, Marcus Mariota became the first Polynesian player to win the Heisman Trophy. In 2015, Junior Seau became the first Polynesian player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Troy Polamalu won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2010 and is the first Polynesian player to be on the cover of a Madden NFL video game. Ken Niumatalolo is believed to be the first Polynesian head coach in college football history.[2]

Australian Rules Football[]

Australian rules football as a sport in Samoa has been played since 1997. The game is typically played under derived rules known as Samoa Rules and is played on rugby fields.[3]

The governing body for the sport is the Samoa Australian Rules Football Association,[4] first formed in 1998 and the national team, which first competed at the Arafura Games is known as the Bulldogs, the name being chosen as the AFL's Western Bulldogs wore the Samoan national colours and has sent some professional players to visit the islands on clinics. AFL players to visit Samoa for coaching clinics include Dermott Brereton, Brad Johnson and Steven Kretiuk.

Professional wrestling[]

A number have of Samoans have ventured into professional wrestling. Members of the prominent Anoa'i family such as Dwayne Johnson, Savelina Fanene, Leati Anoa'i, Rodney Anoa'i, Solofa Fatu, and Edward Fatu are known for their work in WWE. Other notable Samoan wrestlers include Sarona Snuka, Nuufolau Seanoa, Cheree Crowley, Danielle Kamela, Emily Dole, and Sonny Siaki.

Mixed martial arts[]

Mixed martial arts is a growing sport among ethnic Samoans all over the world. Mixed martial artists of Samoan descent who have fought in the UFC are Mark Hunt, Max Holloway, Kendall Grove, Andre Fili, Robert Whittaker, Tyson Pedro, Falaniko Vitale and Kailin Curran. Both Whittaker and Grove are previous tournament winners of The Ultimate Fighter in the middleweight and welterweight divisions respectively. Max Holloway is the first fighter of Samoan descent to win a UFC world title.[5] Outside of UFC, Mark Hunt has won the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix.[6] On September 24, 2016, Siala-Mou Siliga won the Road FC Openweight Tournament at Road FC 33.[7] On February 25, 2018, Genah Fabian became the first woman of Samoan descent to win a WMC world title.[8]


The number of Samoans in the world of boxing has increased over the years. In 2004, Maselino Masoe became the first Samoan boxer to win a major world title by capturing the WBA world middleweight title.[9] In 2011, Jai Opetaia became the first Samoan amateur boxer to win a world championship by taking the light heavyweight gold medal at the 2011 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.[10] Joseph Parker became the first Samoan boxer to win a WBO world heavyweight title in 2016.[11] Retired professional boxer David Tua won a bronze medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics while representing New Zealand.[12]


Volleyball is a popular sport in Samoa and participation rates continue to grow. Many players of Samoan descent can be seen at international competitions representing Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and the United States in both volleyball and beach volleyball. Eric Fonoimoana won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games representing the United States in beach volleyball.[13]


Association football (soccer) is a popular sport in Samoa, with the national team being ranked 149th in the world. Former Everton's and Australia's playmaker, Tim Cahill is half Samoan. He represented Samoa in youth national teams. His brother Chris Cahill is playing as a captain for the Samoan national team. Sarai Bareman, who represented Samoa, was named Chief Women's Football Officer of FIFA in 2016.


Netball is one of the most popular sports for girls in Samoa, usually played during the winter. In recent years, the sport has become more popular for men to play on island. Samoa's national team has qualified for every INF Netball World Cup since 1991. The team also competes at every Pacific Games where they have won silver and bronze medals.


Cricket is a minor sport in Samoa. The Samoan national cricket team became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2000. In 2005, they competed in the East Asia/Pacific Cup, finishing in last place, thus missing out on qualification for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Sumo wrestling[]

In the world of Sumo, Fiamalu Penitani became just the second non-Japanese-born wrestler to reach yokozuna, the highest rank in the sport. Saleva'a Fuauli Atisano'e was the first non-Japanese-born wrestler to reach ōzeki, the second-highest rank in the sport. Kilifi Sapa is known for being the third non-Japanese-born wrestler to reach the top division. However, his highest rank was maegashira, the lowest of five ranks in the makuuchi division.[14]

Other sports[]

Several Samoans have won medals at the Summer Olympic Games and other international events. Ele Opeloge created history for Samoa by earning the nation's first ever Olympic medal, a silver in the Women's +75 kg Weightlifting class at the 2008 Summer Olympics.[15]

Greg Louganis won four gold medals and one silver for Diving in consecutive Games from 1976 to 1988 representing the United States.[16] Louganis also took five gold medals at the FINA World Aquatics Championships. In 1984, Robin Leamy won a gold medal for swimming as a member of the United States men's 4×100-meter freestyle relay team.[17][18]

Tumua Anae and Sami Hill have won gold medals with the United States women's Water polo squad at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Olympics respectively.[19][20]

Rugby sevens players of Samoan descent such as Ruby Tui, Theresa Fitzpatrick, and Niall Williams won silver medals for New Zealand at the 2016 Summer Olympics.[21]

Samoan New Zealander Beatrice Faumuina won the gold medal for Discus at the 1997 World Championships in Athletics.[22] She would compete at four Olympic Games from 1996 to 2008, her highest placing - 6th in 2004.

In professional bodybuilding, Samoan Sonny Schmidt became the first Pacific Islander to win a Mr. Olympia event when he was crowned the 1995 Masters Olympia winner for contestants over 40 years of age.[23][24]

See also[]


  1. ^ Pelley, Scott. "American Samoa: Football Island". CBS News. Retrieved 17 Sep 2010.
  2. ^ Ruck, Rob. "Football's Polynesian moment: Samoa's athletic outliers are paying a steep price for their commitment to the game". Salon. Retrieved 5 Feb 2016.
  3. ^ Team by team guide to the International Cup from The Age. August 11, 2002
  4. ^ AFL Samoa
  5. ^ Edwards, Jim. "Max Holloway Ready to Prove He's Featherweight King". FloCombat. Retrieved 18 Feb 2017.
  6. ^ "Mark Hunt - Official UFC Fighter Profile". UFC. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Video: 'Mighty Mo' knocks out 7-foot-2 giant Hong Man Choi". MMAjunkie. Retrieved 24 Sep 2016.
  8. ^ Tiananga, Tamati. "Waikato-Tainui fighter Genah Fabian wins world title". Maori Television. Retrieved 28 Feb 2018.
  9. ^ Peter Jessup (2017-05-03). "Boxing: South Auckland welder claims world middleweight title". Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  10. ^ Taneka, Taku. "How Good Is Jai Opetaia". Inside Sport. Retrieved 1 Jul 2012.
  11. ^ Vatapuia Maiava (2017-01-01). "Lupesoliai La'auli Joseph Parker - Samoa's very own world champion". Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  12. ^ "David Tua New Zealand Olympian 684". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  13. ^ Robb, Sharon. "Fonoimoana Makes Name For Himself". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 6 Apr 2003.
  14. ^ "Polynesian Islanders In Japanese Sumo". Aloha Valley. Retrieved 30 Jan 2016.
  15. ^ Barbara Dreaver (2017-03-24). "Samoa receives its first Olympic medal after Ukranian drug cheats exposed". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  16. ^ Ron Flatter Davis. "Louganis never lost drive to dive". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  17. ^ Nesian Village (2016-02-13). "Profile: Robin Leamy (Olympic Swimmer)". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  18. ^ David Davis (2012-04-05). "Robin Leamy ('86) Follows His Dreams". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  19. ^ "Tumua Anae". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  20. ^ "A Rio Rundown". 2016-08-24. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  21. ^ "Rio Olympics 2016: Silver for New Zealand women's rugby sevens team". NZ Herald. Retrieved 9 Aug 2016.
  22. ^ "Beatrice Faumuina wins athletics world championship gold". Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  23. ^ Robin Chang (2012-06-12). "IFBB Masters Olympia Moving to Miami, Florida". Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  24. ^ Marty Gallagher (1996-01-01). "Sonny Schmidt: How he won the Masters Olympia". Archived from the original on 2017-04-16. Retrieved 2017-04-15.

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